“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
While deciding to submit my story I had a hard time with where to start. I wanted to start with all the good, with the little girl who had no fear and traveled the world and how amazing I feel my life is now, but my story starts with the bad because that’s just where it all began. With that being said, everyone is fighting battles we don’t know about, so be kind always. I wish I could say my life has been full of rainbows from the start but it’s the storms and challenges that shaped me into who I am today.
The stronger the storm the bigger the rainbow! As rough as those waters were growing up I am who I am because of it. We all make choices in life and I chose to not continue as a victim but to be a voice for someone else and make a difference in some else’s life.
I grew up with an alcoholic father who was extremely verbally and physically abusive every single day to my mother and me. I have 4 siblings but for some reason I took the brunt of it. To this day I don’t know why and although I have forgiven my father in my mind (still need to write that letter to him) I have not forgotten. Some ask if I blame my mom for keeping me in that situation, but I don’t. We can’t judge another’s decision. I personally don’t understand why she stayed or kept us in that situation but that’s not for me to judge.
It’s hard to even believe for myself the woman I turned into after countless years of going to school and just sitting in the bathroom crying after feeling lucky I’m even alive…after my father had me in a tight choke hold against the wall countless times or thrown into the bathtub and beat beyond belief…these were my days for several years.
I was being spit on with a mouthful of chew, beaten with belts, wood, cattle whips, shocked with cattle prodders (for those who don’t know it’s a very strong shock not to be used on humans) and countless other things every day for years. So, if you ever feel your drowning in your current situation please stay positive and focused because there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Between the physical and emotional abuse, to say I was a mess growing up is an understatement. Child services came several times to try to put me in a foster home and my mom encouraged me to go but I just kept thinking I may never see my siblings again and the foster home may not be better, so I chose to stay. I never sit back and wonder if that was a good decision as I’ve been focusing on all the good that has happened since the day I graduated high school and how I moved on to so many amazing things. You have to live in the now not the past.
Growing up my father always told me I was ugly, stupid, and a worthless piece of (insert expletive.) Was this the alcohol talking? I assume it was the alcohol and maybe a chemical imbalance, but it doesn’t make it less hurtful. He still told me those things after he quit drinking as well.
I have struggled with self-image problems for quite some time because of his consistent hurtful words. Yes, I do look in the mirror and tell myself I am pretty, but those words still haunt me sometimes. I go through different emotions once in awhile where I have doubt I’m good enough or pretty enough, but I don’t let those feelings consume me. Once in awhile it creeps up on me when I find myself in the comparison trap on social media in such ways as I wish I could take lovely photos outside without my silly sunglasses. I can’t because of extreme light sensitivity so I need to just accept what it is and not judge or compare myself because of it. I am choosing and will continue to choose Joy! I truly don’t stay in those negative thoughts of myself though, I just have my moments, after all we were all made unique and different for a reason.
Of course I wish I had that supportive father figure in my life that was there to cheer me on growing up…telling me he was proud of me and loved me…but I didn’t and I can’t let what was a toxic horrible environment then rob me of Joy today.
When I told my father I’m leaving after graduation and going to college he told me I was too stupid to go and that was the dumbest thing I could do. He always told me you will never make it. Well I went anyways and I paid my own way while working 2 jobs and going to school and I did just fine, more than fine most would say about me.
As a little girl I would always go out into the trees on our farm and sit for hours dreaming of all the things I wanted to see in the world and all the things I wanted to do. As I child even though I would always dream about these great places I went on to see, I still felt well this is just a dream I’ll never be able to do those things…well guess what I did! I went on and saw more things and places than I even dreamed I would as a child. So I’m here to tell you that you can make your dreams come true even when you’re in a position in your life when it’s a storm that just won’t seem to pass and you don’t think anything is possible.
I feel we all make choices in how we react to things and what we do in life and I chose to move past the things that happened to me and see the world. I’m so happy I did. I have siblings that are very envious of me but we all grew up in the same house we all just made different choices…good or bad…and I don’t fault them for theirs. I have a sister who had a baby at 13 and a sister who had a baby at 17. As easily as that may have looked to them as a way out and attention it wasn’t what I wanted my choice to be. I’m only sharing this part as well because my life could have very easily taken a different direction with no support system, but for my own choices I decided to do things differently.
Now onto good things where I will be going into full detail in my book (many stories from my travels that I journaled about along the way) about how I made my dreams as a little girl come true.
My journey of traveling started when I just bought a ticket and left for London, England at the age of 19. Remember I dreamt of these things, but I still have to pinch myself that that little girl at her worst made her dreams come true. With no plan, no place to live or stay, and not much money saved, I had no fear. I just bought that ticket and left for three months to live and work in London because I wanted to see the world.
I did this two summers in a row each 3 months at a time. I just loved my first summer there so much that I had to go back. With never having flown, experienced buses, trains, etc. (grew up in very small town) I arrived at the London Gatwick Airport the summer of 2000. Once I got off that plane I still don’t know how I just figured it all out. I got into London where I walked the streets for what seemed like hours in the rain and said well I guess I better find a place to sleep. After an hour or so I found a hostel. After a week of walking around I landed myself a bar tending job at a floating pub on the Thames and I had the best summer ever! I met so many amazing people. I soaked it all in and did something touristy every day before work. While I was over there I went to Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, and Whales. The trip to Amsterdam I almost lost my life from walking out in front of a train, but more on that story in my book.
After that trip I went on to volunteer in Haiti for 5 weeks. I volunteered at an orphanage where I really wanted to bring one of the babies home with me. To this day, I still think about adopting even more so since I can’t have kids. I always dreamt of giving a child a life I never had filled with days of unconditional love. I just wanted to give what I never had.
While I was in Haiti I also helped paint a church. While there I couldn’t help to ask myself would I rather have lived here growing up in this environment than the way I did. Even with all the poverty and struggles everyone seemed so happy. But again, I wouldn’t be who I am today without how I grew up to make me the strong young woman I am today. And even after it all, I am a positive happy person who lives to help others any way I can. What truly makes me happy and smile is to bring someone else joy.
As a little girl I always dreamed of different places in the states I’d love to go to or move to and I went on to have visited or lived in these places. Still hard for me to believe that I have somehow made those dreams come true! I lived, worked, and went to school in New Jersey (20 minutes from NYC) and was always in NYC. I made my dream of seeing Time Square a reality and have been there several times. I love the big city life! I lived in California and traveled all over while I was there and that was also a dream place of mine. Florida was also a dream state and I’ve been there a couple times with my hubby and also with my college rugby team.
I traveled to Hawaii a couple times and remember I used to always look at photos of Hawaii as a little girl dreaming and saying I want to go but how am I ever getting out of here to go? Well I did just that! I will be sharing all my travels and stories in more detail in the book I am writing in hopes of changing some little girl’s life and anyone that believes dreams can and do happen.
I am living proof that as hard as life seems sometimes and when there never feels like a way out of the storm, there is. You have to find a way to stay positive even when it doesn’t seem possible. Keep on looking up at the stars and dreaming because one day you will wake up and realize some or all those dreams became your reality. Go chase your dreams! I have so many more that I am ready to chase, and I can’t wait to manifest my dreams with so many of you!
After all my travel years my life hasn’t been so easy or full of rainbows. For years I struggled with health problems and couldn’t travel or get out of the house for that matter. I will save that for another story, but I just wanted to remind people of the fact that you never know the battles someone is facing behind closed doors. So, treat people with respect and kindness every day. Some choose to put a smile on their face and keep moving forward as I have done with severe nerve damage (doctors keep saying it is the worst pain and don’t know how I have handled it and keep refusing pain pills.) I could have easily sat there feeling sorry for myself having been bedridden at times and stuck at home for 5 years, but on that note, I chose to focus on good things. I am feeling better and now I have my life back and am ready to do some more traveling and make some more dreams come true!
If you believe it, you can do it, and I am living proof of that in so many ways!
Writing this is part of my healing process as I’ve been working on my book for years. It’s just hard to relive the memories, but I actually wrote part of my story and didn’t cry. I am ready to get my book of all my travels finished because those are stories by themselves (all happy ones.) My sisters and mother have come to me begging not to share for fear of what others might think of our family. But this is the story of me and like I said in the beginning I have to start with the bad to get to the good and how that has shaped me into who I am today. After all it’s my story. I can’t change the way things happened or my life story.
On a positive note, with my father, I do talk to him it’s just hard. He has called on my birthday the last two years and that hasn’t happened in 20+ years before that. I am happy he is taking steps on being a better man. I think he wants to talk to me more he just doesn’t know how after all that he put me through. So, yes, I have forgiven him, after all he is still my father and I do love him. He is a great grandpa to his 6 grandchildren, so I am happy to see he is making up for lost years with us with his grandchildren. He will do anything for them. I can say he is a better father and man today than he was the 18 years I grew up at home and I am thankful for that.
After all the years of what I went through with my father I hated men and always said I would never get married. Well I moved past those thoughts and I have an amazing life with an amazing husband who would do anything in the world for me. He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is my biggest cheerleader. He does everything for me. I have a life with a man I never imagined I would have as a little girl. I would say after all I went through I am blessed to truly have it all! I have an amazing husband and two spoiled rotten dogs that give me unconditional love! What more do I need?
I feel blessed and grateful I am here to share my story. My hope is that it inspires others and reminds people no matter how tough you think life is just keeping dreaming past that storm. It is the storms and struggles that shaped me who I am today, so I choose to focus on the strong young lady I have become from it all! Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Love and Happiness,
Tosja and I have been social media friends for a little while now. We immediately hit it off and have been cheering each other on since. She shared with me early on that she wanted to share her story, but that she just wasn't ready. It's like the saying goes, "When you can tell your story and it doesn't make you cry, that's when you know you've healed." She was waiting on that moment.
I am SO incredibly proud of you Tosja! Your story is that of strength, grit, determination, and it amazes me that despite all you've been through you have such a kind and gentle heart. Prayers for continual healing.